Iain MacGregorApr 9, 2023
The Lighthouse of Stalingrad
The Hidden Truth at the Heart of the Greatest Battle of World War II
To the Soviet Union, the sacrifices that enabled the country to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II are sacrosanct. The foundation of the Soviets’ hard-won victory was laid during the battle for the city of Stalingrad, resting on the banks of the river Volga. To Russians it was a pivotal landmark of their nation’s losses, with more than two million civilians and combatants either killed, wounded, or captured during the bitter fighting from September 1942 to February 1943. Both sides endured terrible conditions in brutal, relentless house-to-house fighting.
Within this life-and-death struggle, Soviet war correspondents lauded the fight for a key strategic building in the heart of the city, “Pavlov's House,” which was situated on the frontline and codenamed “The Lighthouse.” The legend grew of a small garrison of Russian soldiers from the 13th Guards Rifle Division holding out against the Germans of the Sixth Army, which had battled its way to the very center of Stalingrad. A report about the battle in a local Red Army newspaper would soon grow and be repeated on Moscow radio and in countless national newspapers. By the end of the war, the legend would gather further momentum and inspire Russians to rebuild their destroyed towns and cities.
This story has become a pillar of the Stalingrad legend and one that can now be analyzed and told accurately. The Lighthouse of Stalingrad: The Hidden Truth at the Heart of the Greatest Battle of World War II (Scribner, 2022) sheds new light on this iconic battle through the prism of the two units who fought for the very heart of the city itself. Iain MacGregor traveled to both German and Russian archives to unearth previously unpublished testimonies by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. His riveting narrative lays to rest the questions as to the identity of the real heroes of this epic battle for one of the city’s most famous buildings and provides authoritative answers as to how the battle finally ended and influenced the conclusion of the siege of Stalingrad.